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Josh Patterson
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William’s Bros. 1/32 Gee Bee Z Super Sportster

April 15, 2014 · in Aviation · · 26 · 3.7K

Well, I've already professed a few of my loves in aviation (classic jets and round engines). Another would be the Golden Age of air racing. This was a time when mere mortals were designing and building aircraft in their garages and workshops. More often than not these were faster than any current military plane! The Z was a powerhouse during the 1931 season winning all six events in which it was entered.

The . kit is a little gem and breaks with my normal scale of 1/48. As I've stated I've started building some of my favorite planes in , so now that includes all of Williams Bros. kits! Some of them more than once, as the Wendell/Williams racer has three paint schemes. Naturally the first one I do will be Miss Patterson! (A fun fact about me...My cat, Gilmore, is named after the Red Oil lion! Another Wendell/Williams racer.) Assembly is very straight forward and fit of all parts was excellent! Again, no filler required. (I left the seams on the wings alone as these panels were removable.) The cockpit consists of an instrument panel, rear bulkhead, two side pieces to represent the tube frame, a stick and rudder pedals. More than enough given that you can't see much through the canopy anyway! I didn't even gripe about instrument panel decal for this very reason!

I had much trepidation about attempting the scalloped paint scheme and though long and hard about the best way to go about it. After I painted the base of MM chrome yellow and waiting a week I finally decided to mask the entire plane and using stencils copied from the (thankfully) full size plan views traced the designs on to the tape. Using an X-acto blade I trimmed away all areas to be painted black and sprayed using MM gloss black. While I waited for this to dry I put my time to good use practicing to paint the red trim by hand. I had thought about re-masking and airbrushing, but the thought of lifting paint squelched that idea! By the time I got to the wheel pants I had gotten pretty good at it, laying down a line half as wide as what was on the fuselage. After this was dried (I should have waited longer as the black was still a little tacky) the decals were applied.

There are a few niggles in the final product due to how I painted it. The wheel pants were assembled and painted while still attached to the sprue. Because of this I was not able to test fit before painting, so the gear isn't totally snug to the bottom of the wing. I also wish I hadn't attached the cowling until after I decaled it, as the decals weren't as shiny as the black paint. I did brush a little clear gloss over them and was semi successful. Another thing I will do differently is to apply all the digits of the N number as separate decals. It will probably be easier that way, if more time consuming!

This was my first non-military aircraft model and the paint scheme was challenging, (which put me off building it for two years since I bought it!) but it was totally fun to do! It was also a nice break from military stuff and will add tons of color to the shelf! I intend to build another one applying lessons I learned on this one! First I have to get to work on my R2 so they can sit together!

Reader reactions:
10  Awesome

16 additional images. Click to enlarge.

26 responses

  1. After following along on your build I have to say the wait was worth it.
    Extremely well done Josh.

    • Thanks Al! It was all I could do to keep from slipping photos of the unfinished plane. I was getting so excited. It turned out better that I hoped!
      Nice job on the Crown Vic as well. I like the red wheels! It would look right at home in American Graffiti!

  2. Smart,crisp and shiny. Well done, well done indeed.

    Two thumbs up.

  3. Josh,
    Every bit worth the wait to see the finished product. This is absolutely stunning. A magnificent job.

  4. Terrific build….got to love those GeeBees. Great photos as well with nice lighting…waiting for the right light paid off. Can't wait to see the R.

  5. I concur with all of the above. Great-lookin' build and really nice photos too.

    • Well, you're close enough that you can head on over to Fantasy of Flight to see my inspiration! Kermit has a wonderful replica AND he's getting it ready to fly again with rumors of Delmar Benjamin getting seat time in his old R as well. What a pair that would be to see in the air together!

  6. A few interesting things about the GeeBee R-4. It was designed and built in six weeks, the Granville Brothers being intelligent enough to hire a young design engineer named Bob Hall (who later participated in the design of the F4F and F5F, then designed the F6F, F7F and F8F prop fighters for Grumman). It went on to win all its races at the National Air Races in 1931, giving the brothers Granville $48,000, with which they capitalized their company.

    Mentioning Gilmore oil reminds me that while Roscoe Turner did indeed have a lion cub he named "Gilmore," among "those in the know" the lion's real name was "Whiskey," since that is the tranquilizer used so that Roscoe and more particularly his mechanic Don Young would be safe riding around in his Lockheed Air Express with a fully-clawed and fanged lion cub in a cabin that was 5' long, 3' wide and 4' high, Roscoe being in the cockpit, which was accessible from the cabin ahead of it. (That's according to my late father, who worked for Roscoe in 1933-34)

  7. It sure is pretty, Josh. Great build and finish, and the photographs are terrific too, great use of the natural light.

  8. Wow Josh. Smoooooth and glossy! Really nice and the photos and background are really well done. You are right about adding colour to the shelf.

  9. Wow! Perfect!

    Best regards, Vlad.

  10. Beautiful looking model Josh, I enjoyed watching it come to fruition!

  11. A distinctive model of a distinctive type. More like an exotic insect than an aircraft. Thanks for sharing details of the build.

  12. Excellent, not in my scale but real eye-catcher!
    William Bros. is a strange company with 'strange' kits 🙂

  13. Josh, what a superb model!
    You achieved a flawless finish on that beautiful plane, and that isn't easy at all. Congratulations for the model and for the pics too.
    Best wishes:


  14. Just Perfect, enough said!

  15. Beautiful finish

  16. Great build and beautiful pics !
    thanks for this original model !

  17. Nice clean build, superior paint application!

  18. Josh, I am also a fan of the air racers of the 1930's, especially the Schneider Trophy racers. The GeeBee Model Z Super Sportster is one of my favorites (I prefer it to the R-1), and I actually did a little painting of it way back when. Your model captures it perfectly. And Roscoe Turner would be very happy to know about your cat, Gilmore. Being "a cat person" myself, I appreciated knowing about your cat. Great job on one of the most evocative air racers of that era. Thanks!

    • I can't decide if I like the R or the Z better. I definitely love the curves of the R, but the Z has so many more little things to look at. Rib stitching with pinking strips, the fact that you can "see" the structure of the wings through the fabric. Some of that is lost in the plywood covered wings of the R. I have toalso say that I think I prefer the black and yellow over the red and white! Makes it look like a little bumble bee!

  19. Josh ... WoW! 'Nuff said.

    • Thank you Jeffery! I'm finally getting around to my R2 model. Just picked up the Wendell Williams as well. I actually think the Super Solution will be the hardest to paint because of the cabane struts! (I'll have to see if they can be installed post paint!)

  20. Wow Josh, she really came out great. This is next on my list. After seeing this you have set the bar.


    • Thank you Jim. Too bad there is only this one scheme for the Z unless you count the black and white #5 from The Rocketeer. (Hmm, iModeler at the Movies material there!)

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